Jerome Blake of Kelowna, B.C., surged down the straightaway to edge American Elijah Hall at the finish line in a winning time of 20.14 seconds in the men’s 200 metres at the 61st Ostrava Golden Spike track and field meet on Tuesday in the Czech Republic.
Blake’s performance into a slight headwind on a comfortable evening was slightly faster than his wind-assisted 20.25 at the Diamond League season opener earlier this month in Doha, Qatar, where he was sixth, and a bit slower than his fourth-place season and personal best of 20.04 on April 16 at the USATF Golden Games in Walnut, Calif.
“I was focusing on my technique and getting off the turn in a good position because I know it was a good field [against] guys who know how to run the turn,” Blake said. “I’m still running great times even while making mistakes.”
It was the 26-year-old’s first victory in a 200 final since July 7, 2019 at the BC Athletics Championship Jamboree in Kelowna.
Blake, who was born in Buff Bay, Jamaica and relocated with his family to the Okanagan region in B.C. a few years ago, is scheduled to race his fourth 200 of the season at this Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco.
“I would like to clean up my entire run [for Rabat],” he said. “I want to be more smooth off the turn and on the straight. With better acceleration, I think that would set me up for a good time.”
Zharnel Hughes of Great Britian was third 20.29 and Brendon Rodney of Etobicoke, Ont., fourth in 20.34. The 30-year-old Rodney earned 100 relay bronze with Blake at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, a medal recently upgraded to silver after Great Britain was disqualified following CJ Ujah’s doping violation.
Rodney, who was the only athlete in Tuesday’s eight-man field with a sub-20-second PB (19.96), clocked a 10.20 SB in a 100 B race earlier in the day at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event.
Last May 23, Blake surprised world-renowned runners from the United States, South Africa and Great Britain to win in 19.89 on a 200 straight track at the adidas Boost Boston Games, though neither World Athletics nor Athletics Canada recognizes the event on its websites.
It signalled a turnaround for the six-foot-three athlete who left coach Tara Self in Coquitlam, B.C., after the 2020 season to train with relay teammate Aaron Brown and coach Dennis Mitchell in Florida.
“After that race, he was a very confident guy, almost too much,” Brown said. “He kept saying, ‘I’m going to run 19 [seconds] at this race and this race.’ He didn’t let it come naturally and started to put expectations on himself.”
Growing up in Jamaica, Blake joked that he would run for Canada one day. After making the move to Kelowna, B.C., he was spotted by a coach who encouraged him to take sprinting seriously.
The added pressure eventually cost him a spot as a 100 or 200 runner on the 2020 Canadian Olympic team.
Blake spent the off-season improving his hip and core strength and is now stronger and more comfortable when he’s upright and running. He also spent time working on his mental strength with a sports psychologist and continues to refine technical elements to become faster out of the starting blocks and over the first 10 to 20 metres.
“I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself,” said Blake, a former hurdler, high jumper and long jumper. “I trust the work I’ve put into training and understand for each race I’m going to give what I have, do what I need to do, and the results will be the results.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Reece Prescod became the first European man to break 10 seconds in the 100 this season, clocking 9.93.
Prescod showed blistering pace over the last 20 metres to surge ahead of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, a second cousin of Jerome Blake, and deliver a PB despite running into a headwind. Yohan Blake was second in 10.05.